Yes, even the mention of God is banned from most schools, but some teachers manage to sneak Him in, even if only by opening kids' minds to the mere idea that a higher power just might exist.
That's was I was privileged to do while subbing in a middle school a few months back. A language arts teacher had assigned her gifted students to pick a character from a novel and write a prayer to a deity -- any deity -- that would apply to their situation.
After defining prayer as expressing one's desires or feelings to a deity, hands began to pop up.
"I can't do this. I'm an atheist," a young man said.
"It's not about you. It's about a pretend prayer from a pretend person. All you have to do is open your mind to what someone else who just might believe in a higher power might say," I said. "This is creative writing. Your atheism doesn't keep your mind closed to creative thinking, does it?"
As he rolled his eyes and then actually scratched his head, another hand popped up.
"I feel weird about this because I'd be asking God to do something I know is impossible," another young man said.
"Is it science fiction?" I asked.
"Yes. My character changed to a different form and he wants to change back."
"So think of the Greeks who had different gods for everything. Make up a science fiction god of transformation or something," I suggested.
His eyes lit up and he responded with an emphatic "Yes!"
Another hand, another problem. "This is hard because I'm Roman Catholic and we always say the same prayers. We don't make up our own."
Before I, as a former Catholic, had a chance to address his dilemma, a young lady blurted out, "That's not always true. I'm Catholic, too, and I did an adoration once. For two hours I was on my knees and had to make up my own prayers the whole time. Compared to that, this is easy."
Then another question. And this young lady looked a little apprehensive.
"Is it OK if I write my prayer in Hebrew first, then translate it? I can only pray in Hebrew."
"Sure," I said, "and I think I can relate. In the Catholic missal we had our prayers in Latin on one side and English on the other. Somehow seeing them both helped me understand better. Is that how it is with your prayer book?"
"Oh, no! English is left to right and Hebrew is right to left. We would have to read like this," she said as she crossed and uncrossed her eyes.
After the laughter died down, I thought, wow, if we had to do it that way, no one would have a prayer.
But we can still have a prayer and National Day of Prayer on Thursday acknowledges that. Even atheists might seize the day to open their minds to the idea that maybe a higher power of some kind just might exist.
Susan Larson is a writer from Lilburn. Email her at Susanlarson79@gmail.com.